We bought a homestead. Or at least, we bought a one acre lot with a beautiful cottage house, but I’m calling it a homestead. The last four years of expansive dreams and impatient waiting is now coming to fruition: we have land. And not just any land, land still within the bounds of the city we’ve come to love that is also rich in beautiful soil perfect for growing all sorts of green things.
Wow. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place to be. And yet. The first thing people ask us as they take in the view of our new place is ‘have you got yourself a riding lawn mower yet?’
While I’m sure everyone has good intentions with this statement (and truly, we aren’t offended), my first response is that with all this wonderful space to do something, our first default as a society is to simply mow it and call it good? Really? Is that the best we can do?
Maybe I should preface my response to why I find this question so bizarre. See, I am a follower of Jesus. I look to the glorious creation that God created down to the most minute detail in all its complexity and interdependence and think to myself, that is beauty. Along with that, I also find myself thinking that God must feel a great sense of sadness over the destruction of that incredibly diverse community of living things for a monoculture of grass that we spray poison, then fertilize, water, and cut? Somewhere within my soul, I feel we are short-changing the glorious and breathtaking wonder that is nature when we settle for a conventional suburban lot around our home. It’s a sadness that hangs over me in a way I find hard to express to most folks.
The world is so rich and full of such beauty. There are so many varieties, colors, and shapes of plants available to us, that to just leave an entire acre in grass seems hollow, like an echo of wilderness that once stirred our souls.
So we’re not. I’m resisting that image by tearing up grass left and right. We are building a food forest and native plant haven in our yard as our line in the soil. We welcome diversity, embrace it, encourage it, and love it, even if that doesn’t fit the square line, close-cropped yards that are so predominate in our society. This goes so much deeper than our desire to provide most of our own food for our family; it is an attempt to regain beauty, to find wildness and awe-inspiring nature in our back yard. To be co-creators with Christ as we work to make all things new in the wake of human neglect and destruction. To love that which was abandoned and lost, but is now found. I feel that Aldo Leopold, a pioneer ecologist and environmentalist, sums it up best when he said:
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Foreword, A Sand County Almanac.
I mean this with all the love in my heart. If you have a grass lawn, I do not hate that. It saddens me that so many chemicals are dumped on the earth each year, and I would encourage you to consider if having a few dandelions in your backyard is really worth the poison you’re spreading around. I also encourage you to consider re-wilding part of your space with native plants that attract and support wildlife or to grow a small garden, something to cultivate the beauty and wonder and mystery that nature holds for all of us.
For now, we’ll be using our small push mower to control the rampant grass in our yard. It takes us 3 hours to mow at a time, so that’s motivation to get rid of the grass anyway. And no, we won’t be getting entirely rid of our grass, there will still be patches to play catch and have picnics. Grass, after all, is also part of a diverse community.